Tying the Knot: Our Favorite Wedding Movies
Love is in the air and wedding season is in full swing. Garters are slid up to the thigh, bow-ties are straightened, and the bells are about to chime. Weddings have weaseled their way into all film genres from comedy to horror. The Other Sister shows us that love has no boundaries, I Love You, Man oozes with the comedy of building a lasting friendship and trusting them to be in your bridal party, and Honeymoon shows horrific after effects of getting hitched and what could happen for newlyweds on a secluded honeymoon getaway. Whatever your preference is, love is the main key and is truly all around (thanks Love, Actually).
The saying goes, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”; it’s a cute little statement that is said to bring good luck to the bride. Many have heard of this quintessential wives tales, mainly women, and they follow it prior to walking down the aisle. So why not celebrate the season in hopes of some luck of our own? Here at Talk Film Society, we’re tying the knot on a list of our favorite wedding movies, old and new, in honor of this romantic season.
Mamma Mia (2008)
Flat out, I love this movie. It puts me in such a good mood, even if Pierce Brosnan’s singing is questionable. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is due to be married on the island of Kalokairi in Greece when she invites three men who could potentially be her father. She dreams of being walked down the aisle by her father and figures if she spends time with the three men that she will figure out who her real dad is. The secret is that her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), doesn’t know she invited them until she sees them on the island and panics. What follows is a barrage of ABBA music and hilarity as we watch all the drama unfold in a connect the dots musical. ABBA’s music pairs so perfectly to the storyline that it’s almost scary. With the addition of a great cast featuring Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters and many more wonderful people, Mamma Mia is tops for me when it comes to wedding movies.
- Rachael Hauschild
Muriel’s Wedding (1994)
Those wacky Australians, they sure know how to make some terrific movies. Here, PJ Hogan is responsible for Muriel’s Wedding. This movie introduced me to Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths and I’ve been a fan of both ever since. Muriel (Collette) dreams of getting married and having a fairy tale wedding which is kind of hard when she’s never even gone on a date. Her home life isn’t great. She mainly sits around listening to ABBA all day. She does have some “friends” who pretty much keep her around to use as their own human punching bag. Muriel is eventually kicked out of the group before they go on an island vacation. Muriel decides to go anyway and there she meets Rhonda (Griffiths). The two get on like gangbusters and decide to move to Sydney. It’s not all fun and games for the two women, nope. Their time in Sydney ends in tears for all concerned. Eventually, Muriel figures out that she’s been an amazing person all along (albeit after making several major mistakes). There’s a fair bit of darkness in Muriel’s Wedding, it’s not all sunshine and laughs, but don’t let that dissuade you from giving this one a chance. Fair warning, you will not be able to get ABBA out of your head for a week.
- Sarah Jane
Rachel Getting Married (2008)
No matter how hard we try to fight it, the fact of the matter is that we all bring our own emotional baggage when we go to a wedding. Some is lighter and less oppressive than others, and these emotions can express themselves in different ways, whether it’s tears of joy or sadness or even a still poker face to avoid disturbing the couple’s special day. Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married is about what happens when that baggage is too heavy to carry silently and the emotions inevitably boil over.
In one of her finest roles, Anne Hathaway plays Kim Buchman, a recovering drug addict and alcoholic who’s leaving her latest stint in rehab for a few days to attend her sister’s wedding. To put it mildly, tensions of all kinds run high, between the foreseeable frustrations that come with a family member’s addiction issues to the underlying dread of having to address the elephant in the room: an unspeakably horrible family tragedy from a few years prior. There’s no resolution to be found after the wedding reception ends and the flawed characters go their separate ways, but that’s part of the beauty of the thing. Without a real ending, there’s just a silent acknowledgement that we’re only seeing a snapshot of these lives, a feeling Demme reinforces by capturing it all through a camcorder and allowing the huge supporting cast of musicians to improvise a live score and soundtrack in the background of each scene. This naturalistic angle makes Rachel Getting Married come alive in such a wonderfully real way, without any of the unbelievable perfection of many other wedding movies.
- Callie Smith
The Five-Year Engagement (2012)
The saying goes “There’s the wedding you want, the wedding you can afford, and the wedding you actually have,” but there’s also the better wedding you could have had without your sister getting knocked up first and shotgunning one out, and the desperate push to get your wedding over the finish line before the magic is gone. I love The Five-Year Engagement for its prediction of jealous wedding culture and one-upping, and for its deep trenches of truth about navigating relationships and jettisoning all the shit that doesn’t matter. Nick Stoller and Jason Segel have a rich writing universe that is often indulgent, but gives their friends and beloved performers the space to become superstars. Pre-breakouts Mindy Kailing, Randall Park and Kevin Hart all take on featured roles, Alison Brie and Chris Pratt got to really shine as movie stars, and there’s a parade of ‘Wait who’s that guy?’ stand up and sketch stars sprinkled throughout.
But it’s the emotional well that a comedian like Segel can use to meet the skills of Emily Blunt that make the relationship at the heart, two people so attracted to each other, so strong-willed and stubborn and supportive, who you believe can come back to each other after every challenge and be stronger for it, that makes this not just a comedy of errors but an aspirational reminder: the wedding itself is just a few moments of one day; it’s the rest of your life that you get to make with each other that matters.
- Nick Isaac
Father of the Bride (1950)
While most people know the 1991 remake with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton, the original Father of the Bride is worth a look. Directed by Vincente Minelli and starring Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, and a very young Elizabeth Taylor, the 1950 film is an adorable, simple comedy about a man afraid of losing his little girl, his money, and his sanity amidst a hectic wedding. The chaos of wedding planning is captured with sharpness and good humor, with emotions, opinions, and dollar amounts just flying around. While the film now feels patriarchal and retrograde, it is definitely charming and appealing. Spencer Tracy is just wonderfully hapless and loving, and he is perfectly balanced by Joan Bennett’s fretting and fussing. Elizabeth Taylor is sweet as the apple of her father’s eye. Their special relationship really comes through in the film. Minnelli keeps the movie light on its feet, with a very emotional wedding sequence. Father of the Bride doesn’t quite hit the laugh out loud moments like the remake does—Tracy and Martin are very different actors—but the low-key delights of the older film are disarming, and the black and white cinematography is quite lovely to behold.
- Manish Mathur
Rec 3: Genesis (2012)
When I think of weddings, well it just seems like one long prolonged nightmare that could last several months to a year. I’m a “no muss, no fuss” kinda girl (my husband and I did the whole courthouse affair and it was less than $50) so when the theme of wedding movies came up, this was the first thing I thought of. Look, I know REC 3 isn’t as good as the first two, but that’s okay because this one is eminently watchable. Dare I even say fun? The first two were genuinely scary and the use of the found footage format was terrific. Here, although they begin with it, it doesn’t take long for the film to switch to traditional format, but that’s okay by me. A couple is about to get married and they’ve gathered all their friends and family in this pretty sweet house in the country for the occasion. As if it’s not stressful enough to have a “normal” wedding, try throwing a rage zombie in the mix. You know the drill, one person was bitten by a dog (zombie dog?) and that person then bites someone else, who bites two of their friends, and so on, and so on, and so on. I mean, who doesn’t want to see a bride wielding a chainsaw, hacking her way through a quasi-receiving line?
- Sarah Jane
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
There are very few movies that are both technically great and also work on an emotional level. Let’s just get this out of the way, The Philadelphia Story is one of those few films. It is perfectly cast, and it has to be. With so many moving parts, especially romantically, if one of the actors is the slightest bit off, the movie falls apart like a house of cards. Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant are utterly fantastic together, whether they are fighting or deeply in love (and this changes from minute to minute), while the harried James Stewart matched with Ruth Hussie play off of each other so well that they could have their own series of movies together. Director George Cukor manages all of these mega stars, and complicated plot, in a masterful way, in that it is never overwhelming and remains comedic throughout.
Yet, the romance works in a powerful and real way between many of the characters (I won’t ruin the ending for you). The wedding is, of course, not only a plot device but the major setting of The Philadelphia Story, as well. This film takes the “will they or won’t they trope” to its highest highs. Using this is a stroke of genius as the movie could have several endings, all of which make perfect sense. The Philadelphia Story (despite some problematic elements due to the context of time) is a film for the ages, and the greatest wedding film of all time.